Most of those who know me know that I enjoy following the Blue Jays’ farm teams. I’ve had this fascination since the early 2000s when I watched the (relatively) local Auburn Doubledays feature future Blue Jays such as Aaron Hill, Shaun Marcum, Adam Lind, and Casey Janssen. While I know a lot of fans do keep tabs on the Jays’ AAA affiliate in Buffalo, as well as other top prospects in the farm system, I like to have a more general idea of how most of the players in the farm system are performing, even those who are playing for the Dominican Summer League team. For teams who I can’t see firsthand (only AAA and AA games are regularly featured on MiLB.tv), I look at the boxscores and stats pretty regularly. Of course stats don’t always tell a true and accurate story of a player’s performance, but I look for performance patterns (is the player on a hot streak? Is he in a prolonged slump?) to form my opinion on a certain prospect.
So for the next few days, one level at a time, I’ll talk about some Blue Jays prospects who aren’t currently ranked in the club’s Top 30 prospects by MLB.com, but who I think are still worth keeping an eye on as they progress and evolve.
Since the Bisons have no true prospects of note (Dalton Pompey isn’t considered a prospect anymore, and most Jays fans should know about Andy Burns), I’ll start out with the AA New Hampshire FisherCats. The FisherCats are the Jays’ most loaded farm team right now in terms of prospect quality. With prospects like Richard Urena, Reese McGuire, Harold Ramirez, Rowdy Tellez, Conner Greene, Brady Dragmire, Dwight Smith, Jr., and Roemon Fields, they’re a “must watch” for any Blue Jays minor league aficionado. But I’d like to talk about four players outside of the Top 30 who I think are worth keeping an eye on: Christian Lopes, Jason Leblebijian, Jeremy Gabryszwski, and Shane Dawson.
Christian Lopes: Lopes, a second baseman, was drafted by the Jays in the 7th round in the 2011 draft, and in 2013 was actually projected by Baseball America to be the Blue Jays’ starting second baseman in 2016. While that projection was off, Lopes has had a pretty good season with New Hampshire as he’s hit for a good average (.288 as of this morning) and plenty of doubles (28). While his career minor league batting average is only .259, he’s had a couple of pretty good hitting seasons over the last two years (he hit .293 in 70 games for Dunedin last season). He turns 24 in October, and could see some time with Buffalo next season at some point.
Jason Leblebijian: Leblebijian, primarily a third baseman who’s made cameos at other infield positions, was drafted by the Jays in the 25th round of the 2012 draft. He’s had a career year in 2016, hitting a combined .295 between Dunedin and New Hampshire this season (previous career high was .263 between Bluefield, Vancouver, and Lansing in 2012), and he has 13 home runs through 119 games so far this year (previous career high was 9, set last season in 100 games). The drawback with Leblebijian is his age (he’s 25), and the fact that he strikes out a lot (127 strikeouts in 440 at-bats so far), so his ceiling isn’t as high as the other four players on this mini-list, but he could see some spot duty in the Majors at some point if he continues to progress.
Jeremy Gabryszwski: Gabryszwski, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted by the Jays in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. While you might be surprised to see a pitcher with a 5.27 ERA on my list, he had a good 2015 season with Dunedin (3.77 ERA in 25 appearances; 129.0 innings), and had a 3.14 ERA through his first 14 starts of this season before posting a 7.85 over his last 13. Maybe he’s not as good as the 3.14 ERA implied, but he’s also definitely not as bad as the 7.85 ERA implies either. He turns 24 in March.
Shane Dawson: Dawson, a left-handed pitcher, was drafted by the Jays in the 17th round of the 2012 draft. While he has an ERA of 4.10 this year, which is actually his career worst, he had a 3.64 ERA through his first 19 starts before posting a 6.08 in 5 starts in August. He turns 23 next month, so he’s still pretty young, and will probably start next season with New Hampshire before getting some time with Buffalo at some point.
Next week, I’ll focus on some A-ball level prospects with the Dunedin Blue Jays and the Lansing Lugnuts.